Saturday, March 28, 2020

Martial law explainer

Two of the greats, Professors Stephen Dycus (Vermont) and William C. Banks (Syracuse), have this excellent martial law explainer in The Atlantic. The online version notes that the essay is part of the project “The Battle for the Constitution,” in partnership with the National Constitution Center. After reviewing martial law in American history, they conclude:
. . . Trump’s “wartime president” rhetoric notwithstanding, invocation of martial law would be utterly unjustified and lawless. The coronavirus threatens the health of many citizens, and it may wreck the economy. But civilian government is adapting to the crisis. Courts remain open and operating, with modified procedures. And there has been no hint of insurrection, no widespread lawbreaking or domestic unrest. None of the conditions used to justify martial law in the past are present today or are likely to arise.
Not long ago a top civilian official in the Pentagon declared, “Our goal is not to declare martial law and take control. Our goal is to avoid that at all costs.” His statement reflects our understanding that martial law would threaten not only civil liberties but also democracy itself.

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